Did you enjoy reading our Great Debate blog on Ripeness and Balance with Andrew Jefford and Julia Harding MW?
In this written article, Andrew and Julia tackle the finer points of ripeness and balance in wine. Their back-and-forth covers a lot of ground: how to decipher balance on the palate, the differences between tasting wine and drinking wine, putting the value of alcohol levels into context and the role climate change is playing in defining our sense of taste.
In this episode of WSG Live, we are following up on their written debate with the two great minds in wine.
passed the Master of Wine exams at the first attempt in 2004 and was top student in her year. By training a linguist and a book editor, she has happily combined her first life in publishing with her second life in wine. She has collaborated with Jancis Robinson for over 15 years, editing and writing for JancisRobinson. com, and on several major wine reference books. Julia is co-author of Wine Grapes (2012) and map editor of the World Atlas of Wine (2019). She was co-editor with Jancis of the fourth edition of The Oxford Companion to Wine and has taken on the role of lead editor for the fifth edition (2023). Julia lives in London, tastes and travels as widely as she can, and keeps fit and sane thanks to bootcamp in the park, rain or shine, and yoga.
is the Academic Advisor to the Wine Scholar Guild, and has been writing about wine since 1988, notably for The Evening Standard and The Financial Times, among other UK newspapers. He has columns in every edition of Decanter Magazine and World of Fine Wine magazine and is co-chair of the Decanter World Wine Awards. His books include The New France, Whisky Island and Andrew Jeffords Wine Course.
Few, if any, moments in wine are more dramatic than when a producer decides it is time to pick fruit. Whether they rely upon a Brix reading, a visual cue from the grape seeds, or the finely tuned instrument of their own palate, making the call to harvest a plot of grapes is a decision fraught with consequence. Get it exactly right and you can have a legendary vintage. Get it wrong, and nothing that follows from the vine to the winery to the bottle can make up for an ill-timed harvest.
“Ripeness is balance at its apogee,” notes Julia Harding, a Master of Wine, wine critic, contributor to JancisRobinson.com, and the co-author of the often-referenced book Wine Grapes. Yet given the frequency with which “ripeness” and “balance” are used as terms in wine discussion, it is worth our time to take a step back and try to find a consensus on what they actually are (or even, if they are the same thing), and the ramifications this may hold for our sensory perception.
As we discovered, defining where that apogee of balance lies can be exceedingly difficult. Balance “resists codification,” says wine writer and Wine Scholar Guild Academic Advisor Andrew Jefford. “It varies culturally; it varies by individual; it varies by region and by variety.”
For our latest Great Debate, Andrew Jefford and Julia Harding tackle the finer points of ripeness and balance in wine. Their back-and-forth covers a lot of ground: how to decipher balance on the palate, the differences between tasting wine and drinking a wine, putting the value of alcohol levels into context, the role climate change is playing in defining our sense of taste, and even the dangers of allowing one’s intellect to override the sensual response. All of it, Jefford suggests, is in a quest for, what he calls, “resonance.”
While we may not have arrived at any convenient new truisms, in the end, wine’s remarkable ability to reveal the harmony of nature is — at least for now — something we can all agree on.
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